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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Articles: Youth athletics

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I think one difference is that athletes dream of athletic scholarships as a way to pay for college, especially when coming from a less-than-wealthy background. Maybe a similar dynamic holds in Europe (Billy Elliot), but probably not so much in the States.


As mentioned in the article, good academic performance is a much more "sure bet" in paying for college.

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I have a child that attends college on a sports scholarship. Yes, there are parents who "manage" their children's sports and make even the most feverent dance mom look like a piker. These kids tend to be the ones that are unhappy or look at college as a required stop on their way to the NFL, NBA, MLB etc.


What this article seemed to skim was the vast majority of parents who really are not that into sports, but who are happy their kids are involved in a physical activty. These kids, may or may not be gifted at the sport of their choice but they are happy. They also take those lessons they learned about time management, participation, hard work, and dedication forward into whatever path they pursue.


For example, my son was a very good football player and was offered 2 football scholarships, BUT he already knew his knees were giving him problems. Instead of taking that he took a smaller track scholarship and rows on his college team instead.


That is how it should be, the child pursues a passion that may or may not lead to an avocation but does teach valuable lessons that will stay with the child through their teen years into adulthood and beyond. Isn't that part of what we want for our dancers? That even those that do not make it to the NFL (or the dance equivalent) walk away with a passion and a set of skills that will help them in their adult lives. Besides, who knows where the next Balanchine or Fokine will come from, maybe from a prosessional dancer and maybe from a dancer that was so-so in class but truly could "see" in their mind what should happen.


*edited for spacing

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Just my two cents - as mom of a kid who turned down college for post-grad ballet training - all the colleges she applied to and was accepted to, including several second tier and one ivy, offered her scholarships made with specific reference to her ballet training, background and artistic merit. Dance really DID mean something to them and really DID help garner scholarship $$. Not as a dance major, not to dance colleges, but to liberal arts colleges as a person who was artistic.


If your dancer/jock puts in the hours and achieves a certain level at his/her sport, that, used creatively, should definitely help you find scholarships. It's unreasonable to assume, like the quoted parents, that you'll get a sports scholarship, but not unreasonable to assume that the level of dedication/achievement will result in some kind of scholarship $$.

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Thank you for sharing this article. I found it interesting not only because I have a college-bound non-dancing kid who was not offered any hoped-for athletic scholarships, but also as it relates to ballet and how some parents view SI's, private coaching etc. as an "investment" that "should" result in a successful career in dance. I appreciate the thoughtful responses in this thread.


My DD actually started in gymnastics, and quickly moved to the competitive level (before she switched to ballet). During that time I spoke with parents of a very successful college gymnast and asked them for any advice they cared to share. They (only half-jokingly) said "instead of spending all that money on coaching, uniforms, competition travel and such, invest that money in a college fund. Your chances of funding her education that way will be much higher!" If college education is your main goal, there is a lot of truth in that!


That said, I don't regret our spending on athletics or ballet (realizing we're very lucky we are able to spend it) and allowing our kids to pursue their passion for now, regardless of where it may take them in the future.

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sometimes as a parent it's not that simple to stay objective.Ofcourse you are your childs biggest fan,but that also makes it hard to keep enough distance to see what you're doing.

And often the child itself doesn't know if he/she still realy loves the sport or just doesn't know anything else anymore.

My 10yr old daughter quit rhytmic gymnastics last summer,and it was an extremly difficult and hard process she had to go trough before she took her decission.RG WAS her whole life,she didn't know anything else anymore,she practised for 14 hours a week during the year,during the holidays this could run up to 6 hours a day,seven days a week.If we wouldn't have guided her in her decission to quit,i'm sure,she would still be in rg,and wouldn't know why she wasn't happy because she was winning almost every competition she was in,or at least always came home with a medal.

But i had seen my daughter change over the years,she wasn't the happy little girl i knew anymore,she was becoming a quiet ,anxious child.

But the problem was she still said she loved rg so much and she didn't want to quit.And I do believe she loved the sport,but it was a kind of love/hate relationship she developped.

It's been 7 months now,and it have been a difficult 7 months,especially because we found out she has been severely traumatised by her coaches,so she was realy scared to quit as well.But at least I'm getting my happy daughter back since she switched to ballet,she's still a bit insecure around adults because she has a problem trusting coaches,but i'm sure it will all work out.

What i'm trying to say by telling all this,is that when in this kind of situation there is a scolarship involved,some parents might not see what's happening to their child,they might only see their child winning competitions and be a promissing athlete,and the child might not know better since they get completely brainwashed by their coaches in some sports.

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One commonality between the sports world and the ballet world is that development is based on a pyramid with a large base of young participants and a tiny top. One’s chances of reaching the top are minimal, so much so that in a practical sense they are non-existent. My sense is that in the sports world, most parents recognize this right away, but that in the ballet world this is less so. My guess is that’s because the sports world is pretty objective. In track and field for example, everything is a number. You know from an early age where you stand in the pecking order. You can be the fastest runner in your state, yet know that you are way down from the best in the country. You can’t do that with ballet. It is much more subjective. Consequently, unrealistic dreams are easier to come by.


Getting a “ballet education” is expensive for sure. But then so are many sports. Two that come to mind are figure skating and dancesport (competitive ballroom dance). Even the less expensive sports become expensive because of things like travel to competitions and training camps.


Despite the impossible chance of reaching the top and the cost, many parents willingly support their offspring’s participation in sports. They believe it develops character, a work ethic, discipline, and in the end gives both kid and parent a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. It is an end unto itself. It would be nice if parents of ballet students felt similar. Many do, I am sure.


I don’t think kids are bothered by the unlikely prospect of reaching the top. I remember in my own case when I was 13 or 14, I was sure I would win the Olympic decathlon and afterwards have a great career playing professional football for the Chicago Bears, nonetheless. That these never came remotely close to any reality, I don’t recall having any psychological effect on me. Dreaming is a part of growing up. It is what kids do.


Scholarships to colleges are both simple and complex. Athletic scholarships are simple. Essentially, the NCAA sets all the rules. There are almost always more participants than scholarships. For example, for big schools in track and field there are at most 12 scholarships that feed about 40 participants. Scholarships are annual, so if you are injured and can’t participate—goodbye. Division III schools (and the Ivy League) have no athletic scholarships.


Non-athletic scholarships are more complex. Schools can do whatever they want. Private schools tend to offer more scholarships than public schools, but then they cost a whole lot more than public schools. Each school is different, so it is difficult to say anything general about them other than that they exist and typically cover less than the cost of tuition.

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I think this article brings up the topic of merit-based scholarships in general. The fact is, there aren't nearly as many as people think they are. A lot of schools really don't care that you had a 4.0 and built a working train engine out of cheese or whatever else it is a student does. For admissions purposes, they want people to be well-rounded and smart, but once you get in, the financial aid process changes things. Anymore, it seems to come down to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). While merit scholarships do still exist, a lot of colleges work on the assumption that everyone they admit is smart and talented, so picking a few out for scholarships is unnecessary. Basically, I think that pursuing a passion, whether it's a sport, ballet, music, whatever, is important for its own sake, not because of some unlikely future financial benefit. It will also keep you sane when school gets too intense!

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The fact is, there aren't nearly as many as people think they are. A lot of schools really don't care that you had a 4.0 and built a working train engine out of cheese or whatever else it is a student does.
I both agree and disagree with this statement. My son is a case in point. He had that 4.0 and built a working camera out of legos, as well as two lasers (but they weren't out of legos) on his own during junior and senior year in high school. He did it out of pure passion; he wanted to see if he could. Yes, all the schools he applied to were very interested in him, and all threw merit money at him, including the only Ivy he applied to. A couple schools offered him a free ride, and some of them gave him a great package of financial aid, grants, and merit money. Everyone was interested in him as a candidate. Actually, one school wasn't, come to think of it. Williams College told him that he'd already, on his own, done their advanced physics course and they thought he'd be unhappy there.


So I guess my reason for disagreeing is that most people who build "a working train engine out of cheese" are doing so out of great passion. And that passion, over a long period of time, is what may get rewarded.


The New York Times has continued their article on athletics scholarships. Yesterday's article: Recruits Clamor for More From Coaches With Less. A quote:

“Parents say to me all the time: ‘Can’t you just throw her something? Just make her feel good,’ ” said Joanie Milhous, the Villanova field hockey coach. “I have to explain I don’t have money to throw around. I think these families have just invested so much in private lessons, tutors and camps, they can’t stand the thought of getting nothing at all back financially.”


And in today's NYT: It's Not an Adventure, It's a Job Quote:

The life of the scholarship athlete is so arduous that coaches and athletes said it was not unusual for as many as 15 percent of those receiving athletic aid to quit sports and turn down the scholarship money after a year or two.
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i'm sorry, there is something I'm not getting in all of this.


Either you want to go to College or you don't. If you do - there are costs involved. If you don't - other kinds of costs, but a different decision entirely.


The parallel I know in terms of athletics (not that I know it well) is hockey. Not all NHL players have a University degree, and in our family hockey seems to be the sport of passion. Ok, so I live in Canada. I do happen to have a very talented nephew so we will just have to see. :pinch: (hockey here is interesting in that you really do need to play with your age group - so if you are the tallest and strongest from an early age you can be a misfit. Not a lot of patience for exceptions to age that we see in ballet.)


In terms of ballet..Where I live, not many university dance programs in the first place, so any talk of scholarships is confusing.


I will say that, in my opinion, serious dance training/commitment does improve one's chances of being accepted to an academic program should other factors be equal.



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mom2, I think the 'moral' of these articles is that the athlete (or dancer) should pursue the sport (or dance) at the elite level because he/she enjoys the endeavor, has passion for the endeavor and NOT because there is a monied prize (college scholarship/professional contract) waiting to be handed out to all who reach that elite level. And more importantly, the parents of the athlete (or dancer) should not expect to get a dollar return on the investment of financing the athlete (or dancer)'s pursuit of excellence in their chosen endeavor. The reward is in the character the challenge and pursuit builds in the child.


I think the articles also are trying to let folks know that the scholarshipped athlete really, truly is signing on for a job --in terms of the number of hours and travel expectations piled on top of the regular academic requirements. The scholarshipped athlete is not receiving free money. It is glorified 'work-study' with a lot of time and performance demands. That part, at least, doesn't seem applicable to the dance scholarships. The dance scholarships do not require any more time commitment from the dancer than from non-scholarship students.

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thanks dancemaven,


I think I do understand all you've written - I guess what I'm not understanding is that any of this is news, particularly with respect to sports scholarships. Watching a bit of "Friday Night Lights" should give anyone a dose of reality. Interesting that the article doesn't reference the movie or TV series. Another reality check from the sports world would be "Two a Days" (I think that is an MTV series?)...


With respect to scholarships for dance, I can't really comment. We have so few programs here in Canada in the first place - I am assuming that scholarships would be based on need and/or entering grades. In fact, there really aren't many sports scholarships here either, perhaps this is why I'm so dismayed by the fact that NYT needed to write about this in the first place.



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